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Free Study Guide-To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf-Free Online Book Notes
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CHAPTER SUMMARY AND NOTES

CHAPTER 12

Summary

Mrs. Ramsey puts on her shawl and walks out with Mr. Ramsey. She chats about the gardener, whose beauty is so great that she cannot dismiss him for his inept gardening. She worries about the cost of the greenhouse repairs. She worries about Jasper shooting birds. He tells her it is natural in a boy and that Jasper will soon find other things to do. She thinks of her husband as very sensible and just. They discuss Charles Tansley, "not a polished specimen." Mrs. Ramsey looks at the flowers and Mr. Ramsey does not, but looks at a spot a foot or so above them. He tells her she is teaching her daughters to exaggerate. Mrs. Ramsey says at least she is not as bad as her aunt Camilla. They discuss Prue's beauty, and Andrew's reluctance to work which Mr. Ramsey fears will cost him scholarship. She says, "Oh, scholarships!" They always disagree about this topic, but are pleased to do so. "She liked him to believe in scholarships, and he liked her to be proud of Andrew whatever he did."


She asks him the time, and as he flips open his watch, he decides he will tell her what he was feeling on the terrace when he looked in on her. However, he feels uneasy breaking in upon her remoteness. She prompts him to ask what he wants to. She thinks he wants to tell her sorry about saying "Damn you" earlier about the lighthouse. He says he did not like to see her look so sad. She is a little flushed and says she was only woolgathering. "No, they could not share that; they could not say that." She is upset to know that he had seen her sitting there thinking. Mr. Ramsey thinks that if he cannot share her thoughts, he will go off into his own. He wants to get back to his humor about Hume being stuck in a bog. He thinks it is unnecessary to be worried about Andrew at his age.

Mr. Ramsey remembers being Andrew's age and wandering around the country all day long with nobody bothering him. He tells Mrs. Ramsey he will be off for a day's walk if the weather holds. He would like a little solitude. When Mrs. Ramsey does not protest about this, he feels annoyed with her because he knows she knows he would never do it. He is too old to walk out all day. He thinks of years ago when he would stay out thinking all day long without meeting anyone else. Now he has no right to do this because he is the father of eight children. He decides it was a good bit of work his eight children. He thinks the island seems pathetically small, half swallowed up by the sea. He says, "Poor little place." and she thinks he says such sad things, but that as soon as he says them, he gets cheerful again. She thinks all this phrase-making of his is a game. She thinks if she said half of what he said, she would have killed herself by now. She knows he is thinking that he would have written better books if he had not been married. He says he is not complaining. She knows he has nothing to complain of. He grabs her hand and kisses it so intensely that it brings tears to her eyes, then he drops it.

They walk up the path. Mrs. Ramsey thinks of how his arm is like a young man's arm even though he is over sixty. She is often astonished by his understanding, but she worries that he does not notice the flowers or the view. She worries that his habit of saying phrases aloud is growing and she finds it an awkward habit. She remembers him shouting "Best and brightest come away!" at poor Miss Giddings. Yet, Mrs. Ramsey immediately takes his side and says to herself that a great mind like his cannot be the same as other people's. As she thinks this thought, she inspects the molehills and decides a rabbit must have gotten in. She worries about shooting rabbits. She sees a "full-throbbing star" and gets intense pleasure from it and wants her husband to see it, but she stops herself from telling him to look, knowing that he never looked at things. He says, "very fine" to please her and acts like he is looking at the flowers. Mrs. Ramsey notices Lily Briscoe with William Banks. She wonders if it means they will marry and immediately becomes excited that they will.

Notes

Woolf provides a finely intimate picture of a marriage in this chapter. Mrs. and Mr. Ramsey both do not know the other fully and yet do very often guess the other's thoughts.

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